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The spread of Duponchelia fovealis (Zell.) in Cornwall

By Philip Boggis


This pyralid moth was observed at mercury vapour light by my daughter, Abigail at Ponts Mill, an area of mixed deciduous woodland in Mid Cornwall (SX0756) on the evening of the 20th June 2001. Subsequent identification was by reference to Atropos 2 plate1 no.14 and Atropos 10 plate 3 nos.11-13. This appears to be the 6th British record and the first outdoor record for Cornwall. (Atropos 10: 20-21).


The moth is of southern European and North African origin, and associated with salt marshes (Atropos 2: 43, Trematerra, P., 1990). Specimens in the British Museum for Natural History have been obtained from Gibraltar, Italy, Crete, Cyprus, Canary Islands, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Malawi (formerly Nyasaland), Transvaal and South Africa. In the Middle East, from Bahrain, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and N.W. India. In Iraq it is reported to feed on pomegranate and in Iran on the roots and ears of maize. (Seymour, P., 1993, Central Science Laboratory).


From eggs laid by a specimen captured in November 1989 at Las Americas, southern Tenerife, two generations were bred, the first emerging during January and February 1990, the second during April and May 1990 suggesting the moth to be continuously brooded in warm conditions. The eggs were whitish-green changing to bright red and hatching within a few days. The young caterpillars, brownish in appearance with black heads, were reared on dock seeds and subsequently on the leaves. The cocoons were oval in shape mixed with frass and were made low down on the sides of the rearing receptacle. The pupae were light brown in colour. (Gregory, J., 1990. Unpublished Notes by kind permission). The larva feeds on a wide variety of commercially grown crop plants such as Begonia, Bellis, Coleus, Cyclamen, Eustoma, Euphorbia, Ficus, Gerbera, Impatiens, Kalanchoe, Limonium, and Rosa as well as a wide variety of vegetable and fruit crops. (Clark, J.S., 2000). It has also been reported on a number of shrubs.


It appears that this pyralid has been observed by lepidopterists long before it came to the attention, during July 1999, of commercial growers who have suffered from increasing infestations from imports particularly from the Low Countries. It was probably first imported here on plant material and cuttings destined for glasshouses, hence its occurrence indoors on at least three occasions. (Atropos 9: 82-83, Musgrove pers. comm.). The first record in this country was on the 11th September 1996 in a house at Thorpe St. Andrew, near Norwich, Norfolk by D. Hipperson (Atropos 2: 43). It has been established that the outdoor record at Ponts Mill was within a 10Km. radius of an outbreak in glasshouses reported to the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) during October 1999. (Clark, J.S., Atropos 10: 20-21). The last recorded outbreak from the same site was during November 2001. There have been none since. (Robinson, J., Central Science Laboratory).


The record from Ponts Mill suggests that this moth, in its immature stages was inadvertently planted out with summer bedding plants or shrubs, the moth subsequently hatching and flying from nearby gardens. It will be interesting to note how many other outdoor sightings near to known infestations under glass occur in the future. There appears to be a gap in our knowledge of its spread from commercial sites to surrounding districts either by direct flight or by the movement of plant material. With regard to the collating of information on the spread of this species, there are obvious difficulties that need to be addressed. On the one hand, client confidentiality in the professional sphere, on the other, the cursory observations of amateur lepidopterists.


Duponchelia fovealis (Zell.). Ponts Mill,
Cornwall 26th June 2001 (P.H.Boggis)

Duponchelia fovealis (Zell.). Larva
Found on imported Sambucus.
Aug 1999 (G. Fry)